Protesters take to the streets as rental housing crisis hits students

A STUDIO with a toilet outside in a communal hallway for £950 a month but still sold out as soon as it was advertised.

Single rooms available to rent at £1000 per month.

A teenager camps for three days in front of a real estate agency in order to be on the front line for any rental put on the market.

Online forums filled with desperate pleas for a place – anywhere – to live.

Students are told not to enroll in classes if they cannot find accommodation.

Hundreds of people were waiting for a march today to protest the cost and availability of rental accommodation.

This is the reality for students in Scotland in 2023 as rents soar due to the shortage of suitable accommodation.

It’s a crisis that’s been building for years as demand outstrips supply and St Andrews, one of the UK’s most expensive places to study, is where today’s protest is taking place today.

The Campaign for Affordable Student Accommodation (CASH), which is organizing the march, says more than 400 students have been unable to find accommodation as the start of their classes nears and many have since dropped out or have to travel from Dundee and towns of Fife.

“It’s a pretty desperate situation,” spokesman Barry Will said. “The rents are phenomenal and there has been a real crisis. A student camped outside an estate agent for three days trying to get somewhere and there are rooms rented out for £1,000 a month.

Elsewhere in Scotland there is a similar picture.

Doctoral student Elliot Napier considers himself lucky because, after being unable to find accommodation to rent, he can cycle from the family home in Carntyne to undertake his studies at the University of Glasgow.

“As a PhD student in his thirties, it’s not ideal to live in my mum’s spare room, but the cost and unavailability of housing is just crazy,” he told The Sunday National.

After weeks of logging on to real estate sites at 9 a.m. only to find prices were “insane,” he gave up trying to find accommodation closer to the university.

‘I’ve seen a studio advertised for £950 a month where the bathroom wasn’t even in the flat,’ he said. “I asked for photos and the agent dithered – clearly the place was a hole – but it was taken hours after it went live.

“Anything semi-reasonably priced – like a bed away from the center – cost £700 or £800 a month. I would email about them and get a response before noon saying it was gone so obviously people were taking anything without even seeing it.

Napier added: “I know of students in an apartment who are paying twice the normal rent rate because the landlord decided to go on Airbnb rather than renting it out as a student apartment. They said he thought Eurovision would come to Glasgow and he would earn more in a week than he would in a whole term.

While students aren’t the only ones affected by the cost and availability of rental accommodation, they say universities are contributing to the problem by providing places for more students than can be accommodated. . They also claim that university prices for student apartments inflate rents in surrounding areas.

A spokesman for the Student Tenants’ Union at the University of Glasgow, which made headlines last week after telling students not to enroll if they had no accommodation, said that the problem had to be solved or the crisis would get worse every year.

“These problems have not just started recently and if the university recognizes this, it would make more efforts to expand its halls,” a spokesperson said. “It’s something that has been left to grow for years and is now even worse because of the cost of living crisis.

“Some people find themselves almost homeless. Last year we helped people who were living on sofas.

“Other students pay thousands of pounds but live in buildings that are unsuitable. Some cases are truly shocking because of the negligence of letting agents regarding repairs.

In addition to today’s protest march, students at St Andrews have launched a petition calling on the university, Fife Council and the Scottish Government to act together to end the housing crisis.

They want the university to limit student numbers until there is sufficient accommodation capacity and are calling on the Scottish Government to review purpose-built student accommodation by next March, with recommendations from action by the end of the year, as well as providing funding to ensure emergency accommodation can be provided.

The petition also calls on Fife Council to lift the ban on multiple occupancy homes (HMOs) in St Andrews for the academic year and to consider designating the area as a rent pressure area.

A spokesperson for the University of St Andrews said: ‘We greatly sympathize with the stress students have reported looking for flats in a housing environment that is more pressured than ever. At St Andrews this year, this is linked to a greater lack of properties available on the private rental market for reasons entirely beyond the university’s control. Many of these factors are common to college towns across the country.

“It is important to stress that all of our incoming undergraduate students have been offered accommodation, in line with St Andrews long-standing guarantee, and that all undergraduate students who have requested accommodation or assistance from the university have been accommodated, thanks to a lot of hard work by our residences team. We currently have no undergraduate students on waiting lists for housing.

“There has been no significant change in the number of students this year compared to last year. The housing shortage this summer is almost entirely due to changes in the private rental market in Scotland.

The spokesman added that rent levels were set in consultation with elected student leaders and were “significantly lower” than those charged by private landlords.

“We also have a comprehensive system of scholarships and support to help individual students with housing and living costs,” the spokesperson said. We will continue to work on accommodation issues over the coming year, recognizing the stress students may experience and pushing for changes to local and national policies that impact the housing supply and rents here and elsewhere in Scotland.

Fife Council housing spokesperson, Councilor Judy Hamilton, said: ‘Balancing the housing needs of everyone who wants to live in St Andrews has always been a major issue for the town, and we have looked at many ways different ways of managing these challenges over the years. We will work with the university to see how we can best help.

A University of Glasgow spokesman also blamed “a significant contraction” in the private rental market.

“Like most urban universities, we cannot guarantee accommodation for returning students,” he said. “As part of our efforts to address the issue, we have increased the number of rooms under university management by 25% for this academic year. There has been no significant increase in the number of students this year. He said the university continues to engage with private providers and local government on issues related to the city’s private rental market.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to delivering a student accommodation strategy for Scotland which will, in part, be informed by a review of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). The review will look at a number of issues, including supply and affordability.

“The PBSA review research report has now been received and will be reviewed by a review panel, with recommendations to be submitted to ministers later this year. We will also provide a fairer and more affordable private rental sector through our New Deal for Tenants. »

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